'I want to surprise people': Cammy Devlin on Australia's World Cup mentality and facing France superstar Kylian Mbappe
Hibs forward Martin Boyle had to withdraw from the squad through injury, but Devlin’s Hearts teammate Kye Rowles is in contention to start in defence against PSG superstar striker and France talisman Kylian Mbappe in the Group D opener at Al Janoub Stadium.
Hearts right wing-back Nathaniel Atkinson is also in the squad along with former Hibs forward Jason Cummings. Devlin, who won his first cap as a substitute against New Zealand in September, is expected to be on the bench but is relishing the opportunity to be involved against the defending champions.
The rich array of superstars expected to feature in the France team includes Lucas Hernandez of Bayern Munich, Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni, Adrien Rabiot of Juventus, Antione Griezmann of Atletico Madrid, Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele, AC Milan striker Oliver Giroud and Mbappe. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime for Devlin and one the 24-year-old intends to cherish. He remembers watching the World Cup with his family as a boy and now has a chance to play in it.
“I remember my dad waking me and my brother up with an alarm to get up and go into the living room together,” he recalled. “The thought of actually saying I am going is so surreal. The World Cup is the pinnacle of probably any sport.
“I don’t need to name the players we have the potential to face. Everyone knows how good they are. They’re some of the best in the world,” he said. “It’s just mental to think I could be sharing a pitch with them, but I want to go and enjoy the experience as much as I can because you don’t know how often this is going to happen.
“But at the same time I want to play, and I want to play well and I want to win with the Socceroos. I want to surprise people. I think that’s what our mentality will be, we’ll be the underdogs, and we’ll wear that tag.”
Australia, who also have Tunisia and Denmark in their group, are certainly big underdogs. They have won just two of 16 World Cup matches and have lost their opening fixture on four of their five World Cup appearances.
France won the only previous World Cup match between the nations in the group stage four years ago. Australia’s only victory in five attempts against France came in 2001.
World Cup football could not be more different from the frenetic hustle and bustle of the Scottish Premiership – and the scorching temperatures in Qatar is another factor which will make the next few weeks a very different experience for the Hearts trio.
“I think you have no choice but to adapt,” Devline added. “If France are on their game – and they usually are – it is going to be very hard. It will be a completely different type of game than I’m used to, not only in Europe but with Hearts in the Scottish league. But we always have a good game plan as a national team. I’m sure it will be tough, but it will be a great experience. If we can get a result against them it would be massive.”